Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Would anyone notice?

Earlier this summer my DH, my friend FJ and the DB were together having coffee at the Canadian icon Tim Hortons and while my friend and DB were catching up they made a comment about a question that parishes ought to consider asking "Would anyone notice if I was not here?"  The question caught my attention as I considered this.  We often think that we are not replaceable, that the work that is being done is all important.  This question, however, forces one to rethink the self importance that we hold of ourselves.  What do we do that would be missed?

Many years ago, while I was still in seminary, one of the retired priests was known to go on and on about the church being a dinosaur, a museum.  He frequently proclaimed that if we did not enter into the life of the community we were a part of , become more active in causes, enter into  the life of the people more fully, or make changes to speak to the people differently then we were going to become irrevalent.  At the time many of us thought the man was foolish and bitter.  But nearly thirty years later I find myself thinking about this priest and what it was he was continuously saying and I find myself contemplating the validity of it in light of the question " Would anyone notice if I was not here?"

The church and her people get caught up in surviving and as a result  what is happening in the neighbourhood and community as a whole is easily overlooked.  Outreach is considered a strain or a drain on the already limited resources and the body becomes more and more inward looking.  Naval gazing!  I remember being incredibly frustrated with the naval gazing of a particular congregation and during the service I asked everyone there to stand up, bend over and look at their belly buttons, then I asked what do you see?  One little voice of a child, about 3 years old piped up and said "Reverend, I can't see anything except my belly button!"  When all we see is our own selves, and do not look outward we have long begun to decline.  Surviving to keep a building in place but not responding and doing ministry in our local neighbourhood, town or the world spells demise. And an honest answer to the question "Would anyone notice if I was not here?" would be no.

What would be missed after all if the moral and ethical voice of the church community has been lost or forgone to another organization?  Why would the church be missed if the spiritual needs are being fed elsewhere?  Who would miss us if another form of worship is found to be more satisfying?  Various organizations have stepped in to respond where the church has not and the need that was once addressed by the church, which pulled a community together, has been replaced by trauma committees, food banks, clubs,  local municipal councils and international development organizations.   And the church, it is naval gazing itself into extinction!  I know this sounds harsh and I may seem as bitter as the priest that sounded this particular mantra nearly thirty years ago but I am not bitter merely worried about how we have and are considering our role both presently and on into the future for a new generation.  Will anyone even notice if we are not here?

Friday, 24 November 2017

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs

Signs, essential to life.  They give directions. Offer instructions.  Keep things flowing well.  Entertain the reader. Are intended to get a persons attention.  Encourage. Uplift. Signs do many things and have many intents.

London has provided me with much entertainment when it comes to signs.  

Those painted on the street telling you which direction you needed to look for oncoming traffic were most helpful....well until you get the hang of it and go jay walking! Oops...DH got left on the other side and mumbled about it being a good thing I’d only been here five days!  

The maps on the tube were helpful in pointing us to where we wanted or needed to go.  

They were mostly clear in their instructions.  The British are a kindly lot and a number of them took pity of us when we looked thoroughly confused and offered helpful information.

Then there were the signs that I found highly entertaining.  The description of coffee, another about conversation.  Since I am easily amused I enjoyed reading the signs and occasionally trying to make sense out of them.  

Ultimately though signs are important for various reasons.  Safety, function, direction, entertainment. Hope.  Faith. Whatever the case here are a few I encountered while out and about jolly old London.

The wheels on the bus

Today we have been sight seeing in London, doing touristy things.  Riding the double decker bus, a Thames boat ride, Madame Tussauds wax museum just to name a few of the things today.  My DH commented that I had yet to go in the churches, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  There is so much to do and I am quickly running out of time!

Since we are sightseeing in the city we stayed above ground!  It was bus transport to various locations.  We started out at the wax museum ... we would highly recommend this.  It was interactive and fun for all ages.  The replicas were so life like.  The eyes were particularly intriguing and realistic.  It looked like they would move any moment.  So present day well known stars to prominent historic figures and movie characters made for an entertaining morning.

Once we finished at the museum we hopped on the hop on hop off bus and took part of the ride around the city.  It too was so much fun.  The mounted guards were in place at Parliament, we were at Trafalgar Square (where Canada house is located), Soho, London Bridge and the Tower of London.  We drove by Hyde Park, Green Park, Regent and Oxford streets (great shopping areas).  And yes we walked...lots!

The city is decorated for Christmas so what a time to be here.  Every street seems to have elaborate decorations hanging above the street or at least in the windows.  Tonight on Oxford Street the vendor was roasting chestnuts and you felt like you should start to sing!  At the moment everything is incredibly festive looking.  Add to that the mobs of people shopping and we decided we needed to get out of the streets for a bit.  So I am taking the opportunity to start my blog before we go out for drinks and dinner this evening.

Here is my day in pictures, enjoy to the fullest and sadly the pictures never quite display the beauty of what we are so privileged to experience and nor can it convey the smells or the sounds.  So sit back with a lovely hot cup of something, hum a few festive songs in your head ... chest nuts roasting on an open fire.... Jack Frost nipping at your nose.... and enjoy today’s pictures of the city.

Henry VIII

                             Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Beatles 

Wordsworth and Dickens

Winston Churchill 

Nelson Mandela 

Sherlock Holmes

Workers rebuilding after the great fire


Darth Vader 

R2D2 and C3P0

Random of London streets

Thames view

St. Paul's and one of the many bridges 

Shakespeare House the only thatched roof building allowed in London since the Great Fire

The Tower of London

London Bridge

Few more randoms

Streets decorated for Christmas 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Steps around the unknown


An early rise sees us off to catch the tube so we can head out on a tour bus to Stonehenge and Bath today.  The scenery is typical highway scenery....not much of anything as we bypass all the little places and sites along the way.  I miss a more meandering kind of path to get to places.  It would be a longer journey for sure but you see so much more interesting stuff when you go off the major highways and take back routes.  The other issue with the arranged tour is that you are on someone else’s clock.  Now that is not to say that it was not a lovely day.  The tour guide and bus driver were a wealth of information.  The tour guide, particularly, was a wealth of historical and current information.  

This was apparently a more relaxed tour as we were only making the two stops, Stonehenge and Bath.  Bath was a happy by product for us.  Stonehenge holds many myths of it being a pagan site, formed by Druid priests, a gallows, used as a sort of calendar to determine the seasons.  The mystic remains for the site.  It is know to be important for burials and burial mounds can be see all around the area.  It was incredibly important for people to be buried within site of the structure and much cremated remains have been found on the site.  There is nothing from this that would suggest that any of this was from sacrifices.

The stones are shaped much like tree trunks.  Hammered smooth.  The stones sitting on top of two vertical stones are attached by a tongue in groove method and you can see where some of the stones have been carved at the top so that there are points to sit the stone in when placed on the top.  The skill, strength and ingenuity of this is quite amazing.

The guide imparted much additional knowledge.  This structure is now looked after by a national organization.  The original owners ran into some financial difficulties after the war and need to sell off some of the possessions, this section of land included.  A local man was sent by his wife to buy the curtains, he returned instead with this land and structure, he felt it should stay in local hands!  But a far cry from curtains.

The guide suggested that once you finished touring the grounds you put everything away and just be present and see how the experience touched you.

Once we finished here we headed on out to Bath.  By now it was raining and cold and I must admit to being tired today so sight seeing was not has enticing as a warm place to sit, a hot cup of tea and a lunch to be enjoyed.  Home of Jane Austin and several more famous people there was certainly lots to entice the average person.  While we saw a few sights they were very limited.  The guide did her best to entice us to look around but despite the best efforts we e decided that today was not the day.  So as we sit on the bus, darkness has fallen most people are snoozing and I am busy writing!

Pictures of Stonehenge